The last time Josh Urbiztondo had been in a Finals series was back in 2013 with the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel. But after that, the 35-year-old gunslinger was never seen fighting for a title again.
“When you’re in the Finals [once in your career], you have a tendency to think that you’ll always gonna be there when you’re actually there,” reflected Urbiztondo, a one-time PBA champion with the B-Meg Llamados in 2012.
“But the reality is, you may never be there again.”
That is why Urbiztondo, now suiting up for Singapore in the ASEAN Basketball League, could not be happier on Friday night, as he and the Slingers made it to the tournament finals — the franchise’s second straight Finals appearance.
“You have to seize the opportunity, you have to take advantage of the opportunity.
“And it’s truly a humbling experience and a blessing that I’m able to go back to the Finals, and I’m just gonna fight out there,” the native of San Francisco, California shared.
“I’m glad to be back in the Finals. It’s been a while since I was in the Finals with Ginebra several years back.”
However, it was a bittersweet victory for the cager known as The Fireball. Behind his 20 markers, the Slingers extinguished Alab, 82-64, on Philippine soil.
But for the seven-year veteran cager, he was simply inspired to play in front of the Filipino crowd — a crowd he had once wowed during his PBA days that saw him play for seven teams.
“[I’m] very inspired. Playing in this crowd, it’s just amazing to come back and playing in front of my wife and my two kids and my friends and family — you see Joe Devance out there. They came out to support, and it’s just a blessing.
“It’s not easy going overseas — going away and being away from your family. But coming back home, playing in front of these fans, it’s just truly a blessing. I’m humbled,” confessed the 2009 PBA Rookie Draft participant.
As the Slingers shift their sights onto the Big Dance, Urbiztondo believes that this year is their best chance to win the coveted Southeast Asian pro league crown — a title they have been chasing since 2009.
“I think we have a great chance. We don’t know if we’re gonna go against Hong Kong or Saigon. I hope it goes Game 3 so we get a little rest on our legs. We don’t know who we’re gonna play, but it’s more focusing on us on what we have to do.
“And I think we have a good chance if we play defense like that, play together and talk to each other — communicate out there and play for one another, then I really think we can win the Singapore Slingers its’ first championship in history,” claimed Urbiztondo.